CSI, Law & Order, Criminal Minds and NCIS are all shows that have thrilled, enraptured and captivated audiences and garnered ratings and the all-important advertising dollars, but as a budding writer of thrillers, I don’t watch them. Am I making a mistake? Could they provide me with who-dunits and how-dunits and the all-important why-doits?
I just served as a criminal trial juror on a case in U.S. District Court that was 2 ½ years in the making. Not a capital murder case, there were no bullet-riddled bodies growing fish at the bottom of the bay, no double-crossed drug deals, no vengeful ex-lovers with long memories and arsenic on their breaths and definitely, no smoking guns – only an empty magazine for an elusive automatic weapon that was never recovered.
Instead, even in a short, four-day trial, there were reams of transcribed phone conversations, dozens of photos of suspicious individuals at crime scenes, a hard-working, flat-footed waitress with a floor safe bulging with $171K in tip money, exhibits of boxes, briefcases and bags in the hundreds, some damning, some almost peevish in nature. The only knife in the case was an all-pink one (I am not making this up) brought in by a well-meaning juror to cut the red velvet cake that she baked to share with the jury members and court staff.
In short, it was not a front page case, especially since during this trial, a nationally notorious, fugitive ex-policeman was holed up cross-country in a mountain lodge, perhaps with hostages and seemingly bent on suicide by cop. So, no bleached-blonde reporters in dangerously high heels lurked outside our hulking courthouse, no helicopters buzzed insistently overhead or satellite trucks dotted the manicured lawn like mushrooms after a rainy spell. Inside Courtroom #6, a usually smirking defendant twirled his caterpillar of a moustache and pulled up his mismatched socks, the harried public defender’s neckties were more convincing than his arguments, the spit-n-polished prosecutor suffered not even the tiniest detail out of place, and a note-jotting jury hoped their kids made it home from school and that their forgetful spouses remembered Valentine’s Day.
Food for fodder? Write and tell me what sparks your mystery-writing juices? What are your ideas for getting ideas?
Thanks for stopping by.
R. R. Harris
Author of Double Take